MomsTo the parents of kids who wake early: I sympathize with you.  We are a perfect two for two when it comes to early risers in our house, with both of our boys waking regularly between 6 and 6:30 AM (if not before).  Early mornings can be tough, especially if you want to have any kind of wild and crazy night beforehand (you know the kind, where staying up past 9:30 PM is involved).  After nearly three years though, I finally feel like I have a bit of a “handle” on the whole early bird situation; here’s what helped us, hopefully some of it will help you too!

And for those parents whose kids sleep late?  Go away.  (Just kidding.  Sort of).

1. An early riser or just waking up early?

First things first, you have to determine whether your child is in fact an early riser or whether it’s a random occurrence that can be resolved.  Newborns and babies have irregular schedules for a while, but once you start to see a regular waking pattern emerge, you’ll be able to better tell what’s a “normal” wake-up time for your child.  It’s very common for a child who has been sleeping later to suddenly start waking early due to random things – teething, a fever or illness, sudden change in routine, traveling, etc.  If weeks go by, you’ve ruled out any reasons as to why your kid is waking up early, and your little one is still up and at ’em at 6:00 AM, happy and raring to go, chances are good that you have an early riser.

2.  Accept Your Fate

Some kids are just early birds.  That’s who they are.  Many times a parent is an early riser too (in my house, it’s me) and you can blame genetics for your kid’s behavior.  Keep in mind too that most kids wake early.  Why else do you think Saturday morning cartoons start so early?

3. Change YOUR Schedule

Once you’ve accepted that your kids wake up early, you’ll realize it’s easier to adjust your schedule than it is to try and reason with them the benefits of sleeping later.  Determine what you need to do in order to greet them in the morning in a good mood.  In my case, I absolutely have to have a shower and a cup of coffee before the boys are up.  My oldest tends to be up and moving around between 6 and 6:30, which means I get up at 5:30 every morning to make sure I can enjoy my cup of coffee while it’s still hot, answer some emails and take a shower.  Painful?  Yes, some days.  But truthfully, I feel better, more rested, less stressed (and therefore less grouchy and more patient) when I wake myself up versus waking to the sounds of crying boys.  It takes some getting used to – particularly if you yourself are not an early riser – but once you’ve established a regular routine for your mornings, you’ll feel better.  (And yes, that does mean you’ll have to adjust when you go to bed too if you want to get a full night of sleep.  Sorry mama!  No one said you get to be called “mom” without having to earn a few stripes.)

4. Get a Clock

Our oldest moved into his “big boy” (twin) bed just before his second birthday.  He adjusted to it really well, but has the habit of waking and immediately playing with all of the toys in his room, no matter the time of day or night.  Eventually he moves from just playing with his toys to banging his toys around while hollering down the stairs for Mom or Dad.  We’ve tried a variety of things to keep him in bed longer (or at least quiet longer), and the only thing that’s worked successfully has been one of these clocks, which changes color at the time you set as “OK to be up and playing.”  While he still usually wakes before the clock changes color, he at least now will play quietly in his room until our approved “wake-up time.”

5. Other Tricks: Later bedtimes, night lights, zippy cups 

Some parents have success getting their kids to sleep a bit later by other means as well: whether it be by putting the kids to sleep later, turning on (or turning off) night lights, fans, sound machines, leaving a cup of water or books in the crib, and so on.  We tried various methods, but none have really worked for our older son, though a later bedtime almost always guarantees an even earlier wake up call from our guys.  Now that our youngest is a bit older, I do add a sippy cup of water and some soft toys or books in his crib while he sleeps, which usually gives me a few extra minutes of him playing happily in the morning.  But, every child and every situation is different, so it never hurts to try different things and see what might work for you.

6.  Look at the Positives

There are benefits to having kids who are up early.  We can fit a lot of stuff into our mornings!  We can make early appointments and play dates on time!  We’re first in line at the library for story time, and get the best parking spots when we’re out shopping.  We beat the rush to the grocery store, and can whiz in and out of Target when only one cash register is open.  Early wake ups usually mean early – and consistent – naps by lunch time, and early bed times, so our nights are free to do with whatever we’d like.  My favorite perk?  Getting to really savor our mornings together since they start before we need to be anywhere in particular, and snuggling together while watching cartoons.  Finally, like with everything, this stage too shall pass eventually.  One day our early risers will be teenagers who sleep until noon and it requires brute force to get them up and out of bed in time for school, and we’ll be missing these easy mornings where they wake up early and happy.